cover image The Fifth Heart

The Fifth Heart

Dan Simmons, read by David Pittu. Hachette Audio, unabridged, 20 CDs, 23.5 hrs., $40 ISBN 978-1-4789-8314-9

Reader Pittu fully realizes his role as narrator in this highly entertaining historical mystery. In 1893 Paris, a despondent Henry James is standing on a bridge overlooking the Seine, contemplating suicide, when he is detained by the legendary Sherlock Holmes. Both men are at moments of crisis in their lives, James by his lack of real artistic or financial success, and Holmes by his conclusion that he is not real at all, merely a literary construct. But the two men join forces and travel to America to investigate the purported suicide of diplomat Henry Adams’s wife, Clover, in 1885. The result is a romping good adventure, full of intrigue, narrow escapes, and murder most foul. Pittu does a wonderful job bringing this Victorian tale to life. He uses numerous voices for all the side characters, whether a two-bit New York Street tough talker or upper-crust politico. But it is his interpretations of Holmes and James that is the heart of this story. Holmes is true to form, obsessively determined and arrogant, while the poor, put-upon James is often befuddled and humorous, but never a buffoon. There is something for everyone to like in this book, Holmes fans or not. Pittu and Simmons form a dynamic duo of their own. A Little, Brown hardcover. (Mar.)